Sunfire Romance Novels
In the 80s, the world was lit by Sunfire!

Gabrielle Quick Notes

Sorry about the hiatus…I’ve got a very busy work schedule at the moment. But here, without further ado, is a post that’s been in the works for a while.

Sunfire #24 is one of my favorites: Gabrielle by Mary Francis Shura.

Gabrielle Front Cover (Credit: Joel Iskowitz)

Gabrielle Front Cover (Credit: Joel Iskowitz)

Front Cover Blurb: Is it the showboat magic that makes him love her?

Back Cover Blurb: She’s a showboat star. Will she have to give it up for love?

Main Character: Gabrielle Prentice, 16; curly black hair, blue eyes. She is an actress and singer on her father’s showboat, the Levee Princess. In a Little Mermaid-esque way, she longs to live on the land rather than a boat that travels the rivers year-round. Then, while practicing her new tightrope-walking act on the shore, she is startled by the sudden appearance of David Wesley and falls straight into his arms.

Suitor #1: David Wesley, blonde hair, blue eyes; a farmer from Missouri. When he sees Gabrielle walking above his head on a broomstick stuck in the trees, he is stunned and thinks she’s something from a dream. He falls into instant lust with the idea of something so exotically different from his farm life and proceeds to chase the showboat from town to town. But falling into love with an idea isn’t the same as falling in love with a real person.

Suitor #2: Stephen DuBois, dark hair and dark eyes. He’s a fellow performer on the showboat. We’re told he’s older than Gabrielle, but still young enough for her to consider him a peer; she was excited to have another “young person” on the boat. But Stephen’s kind of a jerk. Or is he? (No, he is. Just not quite as jerky as David.)

Setting: 1880, a showboat on the Mississippi River and a small Missouri farm.

On the Cover: Middle: Gabrielle wearing her yellow dress and carrying the (fake?) flowers she holds onstage while singing. Left: David, looking spoiled and combative; Right: Stephen looking arrogant and dressed as an acrobat. Bottom Left: Gabrielle walking the tightrope. Bottom right: Gabrielle and David embracing.

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Gabrielle Back Cover

I remember loving this book, and a reread proved that it stood the test of time for me. My love for this book has nothing to do with romance; in fact, I think one of the themes of this book is that what we commonly think of as “romance” is a lot of smoke and mirrors. The real love story in this book is a teenage girl coming to appreciate her own identity.

Gabrielle goes to stay with David’s family on their farm so she and David can get to know each other. But David’s mother is thoroughly ashamed of having an immoral actress in their home and wants Gabrielle to stay incognito. Of course, David’s sometimes fiancé, Molly, has her own reasons for wanting to sabotage Gabrielle. At a town dance, when Gabrielle is publicly revealed as a showboat performer, David begs her to deny her identity to the crowd. Instead, Gabrielle proudly walks to the stage and belts out the uncensored version of “Forget You.”

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But she left her muppet costume on the boat.

Okay, not really. She thinks about it, but instead sings a beautiful ballad that moves the crowd to tears. So Mrs. Wesley is shut up, Molly is shut down, and Gabrielle realizes a relationship with David will not work out.

The biggest misstep of the book is the reveal that Stephen was head over heels for Gabrielle from the moment he saw her, but felt he’d have to prove himself to Captain Prentice before asking permission to court her. So this means he had to act like a complete ass-hat to her? Until he admits his love? Yeah, no. At least they agree to take their time getting to really know each other and don’t jump straight into an engagement. Gabrielle does allow a chaste kiss, though.

I hope Stephen grew up to be a man worthy of Gabrielle, or that she left him for the greatest man on earth, because she deserved it.

Next Up: Another entry in the “Historical Disasters” series, and then after that…ugh, Merrie. I’ll try to make it sooner rather than later!

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